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Friday, March 21, 2014

Building an Author Platform Wore Me Out

Four score and seven years...

Wait. How long have I been building that imaginary plywood stage called an author platform?

A long, long time! And you know what? It wore me out.

Yeah. It just tuckered this girl out.



You see, this is post 782. I've been blogging since 2008. Facebook? Yep. Twitter? Uh-huh. Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Goodreads? Absolutely.

I've been writing full time for seven years, studying, getting critiques, critiquing, honing my skills, attending conferences, pitching to editors, studying the industry. A girl can learn a lot about writing and the publishing industry in seven years.

But last fall I read Wendy Lawton's fabulous post, "The Trouble with Tribes" over at  Books and Such Literary Blog, and I sensed something needed to change. Wendy discusses the problem many authors have--their Tribe (and platform) consists of peers instead of readers.

Personally, I think aspiring fiction writers are smart to connect with peers. These are the people who will shout out your news and recommend your books to friends. Unpublished fiction authors have a tough time finding readers. After all, we don't have a book to sell.

But much of Wendy's advice rang true. We need to continue leaving our comfort zone to attract an audience. And that is what I've struggled with when the initial excitement of building a platform wore off. I settled for comfortable because I was too discouraged and tired to put myself out there.

I've been blessed. My platform has continued to grow on every site without tons of effort on my part. But I could do a better job of engaging readers.

The bottom line?

I'm pushing myself to make more of an effort on my social media sites. Brainstorming ways to kick-start my platform.

Why?

Because I'm persistent, and I believe in my books. I love writing. Writing isn't my hobby. Getting published isn't something that would be nice. It's my big dream, and I've sacrificed a lot to make it happen. I'm willing to sacrifice more.

If becoming a published author is important to you, you'll pick up the hammer and nails and build your platform, even when you're worn out.


How?

* Put small efforts in every day.
* Don't let your platform languish.
* Be generous.
* Nurture relationships.
* Freshen the look of your site every so often.
* And don't count on your platform to give you an edge with editors. It might, but it might not.

When the time comes to market your books, you'll need a web presence to do it. Think of building your platform as investing in your business. You can "save"  now by having your own system in place or "borrow" later by hiring web designers, paying for blog tours, or hiring a publicist. You might want to do both. It's good to have options.


If you're an aspiring author (or a published author), how do you stay motivated to build your platform?

Have a terrific day!

29 comments:

  1. It's so hard, for sure. I stay motivated by constantly trying new things. If I try something that falls flat, I don't take it personally. I move on. We simply can't be great at everything, but like you,Jill, I like to think I've laid the groundwork to be ready for what takes off. For example, I'm was not convinced my "readers" were on Google+, but I believe they will be eventually. So, I've brainstormed ways to begin building my presence there. Now that I have a couple of books out there, I believe the best thing I did before those books was putting all the platform pieces in place: the website, a newsletter, social media. I think it would be even more difficult to lay the foundation after the books were out there. To stay motivated? I try new things and I take breaks when I need to. Also, I watch how platform practices are changing. The advice used to be to blog consistently and often. I no longer think that is the common advice, especially for fiction writers. You can, of course, but I don't think it is necessary for success.

    I think my favorite advice on this subject is this: If you're not having fun building your platform as a fiction writer, you're doing it wrong. Do what you enjoy doing. If you don't enjoy it, readers - the people you really want to reach - will know.

    Hope you're dong well, Jill!!! Happy Friday!

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  2. You've done a tremendous job with your platform, Heather. I'm always impressed at how consistent you are. Congratulations on your Mindspeak series too!!

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  3. Jill, I think you're doing an amazing job of platform-building (even if I am one of your peers instead of a reader) - hang in there, hon! I don't have much advice, but I don't feel as if I'm terribly good at marketing. Still getting out of my comfort zone. ;)

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    1. Thanks, Kathy. Ugh, the marketing--it's hard, isn't it?? I'm getting out of my comfort zone too!

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  4. Thank you for saying this, JIll. I am in the worn out stage, myself right now. Even though I've had much success, I've sensed that we need more depth to our social media involvement. After all, social means relationships, and that's what counts in the long run.

    I appreciate you--this post was just what I needed today!

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    1. Yes, I agree, and you need energy to have depth. Maybe we need some ice cream to fortify us? Ha! Thanks for coming over--I appreciate you too!

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  5. OOH fun topic. :) So I have to agree with you and say that I think building a tribe at least somewhat made up of other writers isn't necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because they're going to be some of your biggest cheerleaders...and they all have reading friends. So, again, not a bad thing. Plus, let's face it, I don't think readers are stopping by author blogs in droves...they're more likely to read a book, enjoy it, MAYBE post about it online but more often tell their friends in person at work or church or wherever. I read a stat that said that 80% of book sales STILL come from word of mouth.

    At the end of the day, I think the best platforms are built through genuine relationships. Yeah, it's important to have a plan, but I'm someone who can't get detailed and crazy intense about a plan--like, it just doesn't work for me to say, I need to tweet X times a day and X amount of tweets need to be links, X need to be funny, X need to be...blah blah blah. For me, it needs to stay fluid and fun--otherwise it becomes way too formulaic, people see through it anyway, and I lose any bit of joy I might've found otherwise. (Maybe I just don't like rules!)

    I heard Chip MacGregor say once, too, that your goal in platform building is simply to find your audience...and then get out there in front of them. So being able to specifically define who we're trying to reach is important too.

    Okay, done rambling. :)

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    1. Well said, Melissa. I want to reprint this whole comment as a post! You got it!

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    2. Good thoughts, Melissa.
      And good post, Jill.

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  6. Jill, I've had to learn to pace myself. I'm more genuine with my online relationships when I take regular time off. And I agree with you (and other commenters) I don't having writers as a part of your tribe is bad. We need that support system. But I also think what draws anyone back to us (blogging, FB, Twitter) is when we share our passions. People enjoy the instant click that comes with a shared love of something. And it's those people who become our cheerleaders - just as we become theirs. I think that's why people gravitate to you - you're real and you're fun!

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    1. Everything you said in here is true. I've gotten better about pacing myself too. I recognize my writer seasons and how they affect my efforts on social media. My passion sizzled the last few years, so I really appreciate the kind words, Edie! Trying to get that oomph back!

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  7. I'm concentrating on writing a blog that adds value to people's lives (at least, I hope it does). It maintains the general philosophical framework that underpins what I write, though with a specific focus on marriage and relationships. Sometimes it seems like "how can I think up something new three times a week?" but the subjects always pop up.

    Readership has been growing, albeit slowly, but I'm exploring ways to increase the traffic.
    \
    One thing - I wish I had used Wordpress rather than Blogger. The outreach tools seem to be much more user-friendly. I am thinking of migrating the blog, but don't want to lose the readership I have.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2014/03/marriage-and-substance-abuse.html

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  8. Hold that thought, Andrew. There are a few hidden gems about Blogger many people don't realize. The fact Google runs it is the biggest. My blog qualified for Google Authorship almost as soon as they started it. Every one of my posts helps my SEO w/Google. I can't say the same for WordPress, not that I'm knocking WP. I'm not. Both are good programs. What outreach tools are you looking for?

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    1. Really, anything to improve SEO. The 'stock' gadgets for FB and Twitter are pretty inconspicuous, and I think those are some of the best ways to spread the word. I've tried to install an aftermarket gadget, but no luck!

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    2. From my perspective, less people are reading blogs than they were a year ago, so the share buttons, while good, are less important than they were when blogging was a way of life! I do have FB share button (I had to embed it into my template) and I think it's been used a handful of times. The Twitter share button gets more action, that's for sure. I also have my blog automatically connected to Twitter using Twitterfeed. For SEO, I suggest always typing your author name as a label when you post and to post regularly. Like I said, Google wants Blogger to succeed and your SEO automatically improves just by posting. Are you on G+? Link each post there too. I believe G+ will be a major player in the upcoming years.

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  9. Hello, Jill! I think other writers are great assets, as well. I can't count the times that other writers have read their peer's work and bragged on it! If you are writing kids' books, other writers have kids. If you are writing on marriage, other writers are married. You know! I think it's good.

    Blessed by you!
    shelli

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    1. You're right! Authors can be your biggest cheerleaders. And, I'm the first one to say, it's really hard to find readers when you're unpublished. Any way we can increase visibility is good!

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  10. I'm only now getting started on my platform. I've looked to yours as an example of what to do. When you do sign a contract, you'll have lots of friends who will be eager to help spread the word about your book.

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    1. What a nice thing to say, Cathy. I really appreciate it! For just starting your platform, I'd say you're doing a great job!

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  11. The best way to build an audience is to write a worthy book.

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  12. Great post, Jill. In addition to the other great comments, I might add that platform building is more enjoyable when I envision my audience as a particular person: maybe that 1 friend who is already excited to read my work or another friend who is quick to offer an encouraging word...putting a face and a name on my audience keeps me motivated.

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    1. What a terrific idea, Heidi! I love the idea of one-on-one. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Jill, what an honest (and great) post. You're right, personal connections are what it's all about. Not sales, or high numbers, or any of that other pushy stuff. I'm thankful for real connections made through social media--like my connection with you!

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    1. I'm grateful, too, Julie! It's been exciting watching you move ahead with your career!

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  14. This is great! I have also struggled with the platform issue at times. As a writer, I really only want to write, plus I am a private person. Sometimes the being "out there" is hard for those of us who are naturally introverted, but I agree with you that we need to do it and we need to connect with readers before peers. Good post.

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    1. Wouldn't that be wonderful? To just write? Actually, I get lonely if I'm offline too much. I appreciate all the friends I've made online--they truly make a difference in my life. :)

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  15. Jill, I loved this article. I am just beginning my writing career, it can be overwhelming. Your article was very helpful. Thank you so much.

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